Okay, so Mr. Li finally pulled it off; just when I was beginning to give up hope. For the last three months I have been waiting for the proposal, and yet when it happened I was entirely caught by surprise.
Mr. Li had spent the last months coming up with every possible excuse why he shouldn’t have to propose to me, including
“You want to take my name, so I think it is your duty to propose.”
He even had me so convinced, I got all irritated until I received a WeChat message promising me, he had something in store. Of course, it wouldn’t be us, if there had not been a few quirky moments.
First of all, he planned on surprising me, which was incredibly sweet but went slightly wrong for two reasons; one, he tried to get me back to the flat on time by telling me he wanted a Skype date at exactly 5.30 right after work. Thickhead that I am, I of course did not get the hint, and so 5.30 came and went and I was still at the office.
“Oh, he can just skype my phone”
, I thought and since said device was being almost eerily calm, I assumed that meant he was busy or stuck at work.
I strolled up to my flat an hour later. As I walked to the door, a delicious smell of curry wafted up my nostrils and I felt a pang of regret.
“One of the neighbours is cooking, it smells delicious. How I wish someone were cooking for me.”
I did feel a little suspicious when I noticed the mouth-watering smell seemed to be coming out of my own flat; but only for an instant, then the thought passed.
I opened the door and suddenly a figure jumped out from behind the bed. I screeched like a banshee with shock, which earned me a concerned look from the neighbours just unlocking their own door.
“Oh my god, I am being burgled!”
That was the first thought that shot through my head. (I now see how illogical it would be for a burglar to be cooking a curry in the flat of his victim…although at the time it seemed to make sense.) The next thought that followed was
“That burglar looks awfully familiar.”
You guessed it, it was Mr. Li; “burglar of my heart” (a title he later bestowed upon himself).
As I stepped into my flat, the first thing that caught my eye was the cleanliness.
You see, that was the second problem about Mr. Li’s unannounced visit; the pre-boyfriend flat clean, which I usually frantically complete the evening before his arrival, had not taken place. To make matters worse, this was a Friday with a filming appointment, and so I had spent the morning going through numerous outfit changes, discarding the rejects haphazardly on my bed and floor and leaving an array of make-up utensils strewn across the bathroom sink top as I rushed to work. To call the state of my flat chaos incarnated would be to flatter it. And so, around 1pm, Mr. Li stepped into this bombshell.
He later confessed,
“My initial reaction was ‘Oh my, a bomb went off in this place!’ For a short moment, all I could think was, this is the girl I want to marry. Am I sure about that? But then I thought of her pretty face and nice character and thought ‘What the heck’ and started cleaning.”
One of my constant complaints is that Mr. Li is terrible at making compliments and saying romantic stuff, but it seems he has recently stepped up his game.
And so he cleaned and cooked all afternoon, bless him. I have to admit, there is nothing sexier than a man who does housework. And yes, I am saying that partly because I hate doing housework. But mainly coz it’s true.
After welcoming me and complaining about my lateness, he directed me towards the cake. He had purchased a cream cake from HPC bakery, one of my favourite chains in Nanjing. Yummy! As Mr. Li later stated:
“Whenever I am being romantic, there is food.”
While I was unpacking the dessert, Mr. Li announced he needed the loo. At this point I had a hunch what was happening; clean flat, curry and cake, and then I noticed the pad was propped up in a suspicious fashion, i.e. he was filming this whole procedure.
“Strange moment to be going to the loo,”
I thought to myself.
Next thing I know, he marches out of the toilet with a humungous batch of roses. At some point I had informed him that there need to be hundreds of roses during a proposal; he “only” got 99. This example was, without a doubt, proof of how I have a big gob and forget half the nonsense I say, but it was incredibly touching to know he listens to my ramblings.
After handing me a bucket full of roses almost as big as myself, he started rummaging around in them. As I found out later, he was desperately looking for the ring box, which he had hidden in the roses.
The poor thing was slightly nervous, mainly because I had further announced that I did not want him to propose to me in my flat, because that was boring. However, for a Chinese man, who is not prone to excessive displays of affection, especially not in public due to cultural convention, that was asking a bit too much. In the end, I am glad he did not change his plans, since everything was perfect.
He did skip a slightly important part of the whole proposing, though…the actual proposal.
“So, I kneel down…and then put this on your finger, right?”
“Didn’t you forget to ask me a question?”
I replied. And there we go.
He had to then rescue the curry, which had burned in the pot ever so slightly in the meantime; but to me was the most perfect tasting curry in the whole wide world, after that he proceeded in his cooking marathon to make my favourite dish, aubergine, potato and green peppers in a garlic-soy sauce. For this dish alone, I would marry him.
Then he presented me with another gift; an engagement iPhone. This might sound really silly, but the fact that he used his once in a lifetime opportunity to pre-book the iPhone 6 and then hand it over to me, that is true love. I always thought, that if he could marry Apple, he would. Luckily, he chose me!
As a sidebar, due to its extreme popularity in China, the iPhone is almost impossible to get, especially in smaller cities. Even in Beijing Mr. Li had to go to the store, where he had pre-booked the phone, and queue up for ages to get it. The “huangniu” illegal sellers were lining up to offer those who managed to purchase the iPhone to buy it off of them for RMB 300 extra. A number of people were caught trying to smuggle the phones from Hong Kong on to the mainland. China and the iPhone – an epic lovestory. Well, as I said, this illustrates the troubles and pains Mr. Li went through to get me the phone, I am truly spoiled!
The final, and in my personal opinion, best surprise was when he confessed he had not only recorded the proposal on the pad, but also a few messages in the morning and afternoon for me. At this point I was so touched I started to cry, what the roses, the food and even the phone had failed to do; the fact that Mr. Li recorded himself on camera, something he really does not enjoy, just because he knew I would love it; that was the moment right there, that I will never forget.
So, to sum it up, although I was convinced that our pre-proposal engagement had taken the surprise out of things, Mr. Li actually managed to give me the loveliest surprise on a great date (14/11/14).
“You didn’t think I was going to prepare on our three-year anniversary, did you?! That’s so predictable!”
he informed me later, and he was right. After a weekend of feasting on delicious home-cooked food and cake, and drinks and lunches with friends, I had to once again send him off to Beijing; maybe next time, he will get a surprise visit from me.